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Wearable Technology and the New Consumer | A VISION thru new lenses

The internet has been buzzing with “wearable tech”! While a lot has been written and spoken aloud, I wonder – in its real essence, what is the meaning of wearable tech.?

Is wearable technology a believable future or simply yet another passing fad?

Over the past few years, wearable technology has become very prevalent. According to a study conducted by Juniper, the market for the wearables business is expected to exceed $1.5 billion in 2014, almost double its value last year.

Wearables represent an advancement in our relationship with pervasive computing and suggest a future of ubiquitous connectivity.

Google Glass aims to augment your “world” with contextually relevant information, allowing you to seamlessly share your experiences with loved ones WHILE health conscious fitness trackers like Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, JawBone aim to keep you “super-aware” of your health.

Some thoughts that are running in the minds of audience today about wearables!

Are they yet another Device?

Today consumers are experiencing a “device-overwhelming” syndrome! New gadgets are debuting all the time and “smart” is not an option. All new devices are built for the future. With manufactures vying for consumer attention: the result is a surfeit of devices in the market. With so many existing options, a consumer often tends to wonder, do I need an additional wearable device?

Where does this start and end?

The burgeoning field of wearables has [is] entered [entering] everything! It has entered many industries – in your clothing, jewelry, shoes, glasses, watches, and even on your skin. An interesting study by CNBC on wearables highlights trends in the wearable space. It certainly can be an interesting debate as to how does one consider them.

Wearable Technology opens up a completely new realm of possibilities because of their ability to connect people directly to their surroundings and automatically store to their devices. While there is no doubt on the potential of the benefits that can be derived but are we challenging or experiencing the full value of wearable technology for its true potential?

Interesting Use-Cases:

• Virgin Atlantic has launched a pilot scheme to equip first-class staff with Google Glass headsets- this is indeed all about driving a customer experience and to help personalize the customer service. The staff also uses smart-glasses to keep up to date on the topics passengers might ask about ranging anywhere from events, local weather, cuisine etc while keeping their hands free.
• Disney recently introduced a smart wristband, called a “MagicBand” for its customers at Orlando, USA resort. The wristband allows the customers to plan and manage their visits in advance. It lets them gain entrance to chosen rides or locations by scanning the wristband. This wearable technology has helped Disney drive a phenomenal reduction in queue times by 25%.
• Supermarket chain Tesco has implemented a very interesting concept for increasing the effectiveness of its operation centers. It has issued armbands to workers at one of its Irish distribution centers which helps them to track the goods they are collecting.
• Gartner predicts that smart-glasses will have a surreal effect on “field service industry” by 2017 driving cost savings upto $1Billion per year. Epson’s Moverio smartglasses are being used by field technicians to view models of systems/machinery as they repair them.
• Canadian retailer Longo Brothers Fruit Market saw a huge potential in improvising the supply chain logistics through this wearable technology. By switching from a bar-code scanner gun to a ring scanner and wearable computer, the company reported a 14% percent increase in productivity.
• A typical example that one can cite are the amazing “in-store experiences” that retailers can build- empowering brands to explore and interact with consumers in ways they never have before. Imagine the amazing experiences a store can drive for its customers thru its “ InStore- Experience” from welcoming a consumer to making him aware of all cool offers that are relevant to him, matching his social preferences- now that’s taking the consumer experience to a new level.
• Retail industry also can benefit from customer service standpoint. Imagine if a sales rep using smart-glasses or a suitable wearable technology could exactly know and better manage his inventory of stock, know where a particular style of shirt is available, if a particular colour and the corresponding size is available – essentially the sales rep needn’t leave the customer nor make them wait.
• You definitely can’t ignore the widespread adoption of fitness trackers and health bands for health reasons- in short healthcare industry will be a fast adapter too. Evena Medical’s Eyes-On Glasses system lets phlebotomists use Moverio glasses and augmented reality technology to locate patients’ veins, in turn reducing failed attempts at injections. Also, the unique ability of biometric sensors to monitor health statistics has tremendous potential to transform healthcare reporting. The healthcare players however would have to be extra cautious. Under the Affordable Care Act, there will be huge penalties for bad outcomes.

The arena of wearable technology is broad and the list of devices is limited “only” by the developer’s creativity and intelligence in tapping the “untapped & undeveloped markets”.

How Does All This Make Sense for an Enterprise Adoption?

Enterprises need to start putting together a well thought out road map for strategically positioning – how wearables can improve their businesses over the next few years. In short, they need to embark on the early stages of the “enterprise wearables journey”. Forrestor Analyst J.P Gownder, says that by 2020 wearable technology will be common within many enteprises and by 2024, it will be even more common as to how employees do their jobs with wearable technology.

• Wearable Tech- How about Identity , Authentication and Security

The aspect of “Identity” will indeed be the tipping point for wearable technology. Authentication will be suitable for wearable technology; they are more secure as they attach to an individual with biometric sensors (they can’t be duplicated or imitated) than devices with physical keys, passwords. Bionym, a startup has developed a wearable authentication gadget called “Nymi” which measures cardiac biorhythms through the skin to authenticate users. Forrestor analyst Gownder predicts that this authentication will be used for payments too.

The security arena is no different to wearable technology- the challenges wearables pose are not any different from what any other mobile device poses. What is really the need of the hour is a lot more maturity in terms of how do enterprises build the roadmap for managing these devices. Gartner’s Research Director Angela Mclntyre says that “One of the biggest challenges is the lack of MDM device software being provided from solution providers.” So a key aspect will be in integrating these concepts and weaving a holistic approach for the enterprise.

To Conclude…

Wearable Technology is the next level of “consumerisation of IT”- preparing for this next wave of consumer devices can help CIOs and IT leaders become strategic partners. Players who will target #WearableTech will be able to demonstrate that they are ahead of technology trends, and can take the lead.

Anita Raj

Technology Evangelist

Team @MSExchangeguru

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